February 11, 2011
On the Big Board
||I liked the cinematography in this a lot. The dialogue was a little too modern in phrasing.
If you’re either a voracious reader or have a great memory, you may well recognize the name The Eagle of the Ninth as the title of a 1954 novel by Rosemary Sutcliff. Well, it only took 55 years and change, but that book is finally going to be a movie, of the same name. It’s the story of a Roman soldier in Britain, trying to solve the disappearance of the Ninth Legion of soldiers, which was led by his father. To restore his father’s name and to help retrieve the sacred Eagle of the Ninth, this soldier is willing to face nomadic tribes in the wilds of Europe. The story is exciting enough, and with director Kevin Macdonald (he of the BOP favorite State of Play and The Last King of Scotland) at the helm, it’s all peaches and cream, yes?
Well, getting past the idea that Roman soldiers in Britain would speak English, let’s drop the other shoe: the man playing the young, sleuthing Roman soldier is Channing Tatum. Yes, Channing Tatum, the same one from the Step Up films, G.I. Joe, and Fighting. Now, you may like Mr. Tatum in those films (my opinion is that he’s no great shakes, but there are far worse actors his age), but, unless he has supremely hidden depths, I’m not sure how great of a British accent he’s going to be able to lay down. And, considering that the other major co-stars in The Eagle of the Ninth are Jamie Bell (as the soldier’s faithful slave), Donald Sutherland, and Mark Strong, I would imagine that a British accent is where Tatum is headed. Of course, I could be wrong, and all four of those men could talk in American accents, which would be…well, as distracting.
Tatum’s presence aside, those other actors I named (especially Strong and Bell) are exciting and unique performers, always bringing new and various elements to their performances. Moreover, the adventure elements of the movie could be extremely fun, even if we’ve heard variations on the story time and time again. Really, the only thing that should give you pause (as it gives me pause) is Tatum being the star. He’ll certainly fit the look, in terms of being muscular enough, but his vocal skills do worry me. Macdonald being director should offset that concern, if only a bit; he’s managed to do completely different films each time out of the gate, whether it’s a newspaper-based drama, a biography, or a documentary about mountain-climbing. The Eagle of the Ninth may end up suffering from a weak lead performance, but what surrounds Tatum may balance the film’s quality. (Josh Spiegel/BOP)